A conversation with Bill Bishop, CEO of Red Mushroom, producers of 宝宝蹦蹦 (Baobaobengbeng), a virtual world for children.
Last time your correspondent’s Mac was parked at the service center, I had to spend a week at a local internet cafe. When one reads about 网瘾 (Net addiction) in the Chinese press, you often feel the problem is being exaggerated. But when an early bird like me gets to the cafe at 5:30 and sees grown men glued to the screens, smoking frenetically, and cursing into their headsets, he realizes that these guys didn’t just get here.
Chinese parents are caught behind a rock and a hard place; either forbid their to play Internet games, which means indirectly restricting their access to valuable educational tools and impeding their information age education (or even worse encouraging them to sneak of to seedy internet cafes), or risk their child getting addicted to battling scantily clad elven vixens or fragging terrorists with assault rifles.
Bill Bishop has the solution. 宝宝蹦蹦 is a “green game”–no sex, violence or anything not fit for a nine year old. Players control cute animal avatars that move around the virtual world playing games that help them memorize English vocabulary, Tang poetry, and Olympic trivia. As founder of CBS Market Watch, Bill’s online media track record is a strength for Red Mushroom. However, the virtual world faces many challenges, most importantly getting buy-in from both children AND parents.
Watch this video for a preview of Baobaobengbeng.